Priorities & Recent Accomplishments
CRA Infrastructure Improvements
Stormwater and drainage improvements have remained a priority in the CRD due to the historic impact of repetitive ponding and flooding on residential and commercial properties and on roadways. The Park Boulevard Drainage Improvements Project, a multi-year, multi-phased project, leveraged federal funding to address this issue comprehensively, with the CRA supporting specific segments located within and impacting drainage within the CRD. The importance of this project to the success of CRA redevelopment efforts is immeasurable.
During 2015 to 2016, work continued on Park Boulevard Phase IV Drainage Improvements for the Garnett and North Disston Subdivisions. The segment of the project supported by the CRA will improve drainage in a 40-acre area extending from 46th Street to 49th Street between 82nd and 86th Avenues.
Additional improvements in CRD infrastructure made during 2015 to 2016 include continuing landscaping improvements throughout the CRA to improve the visual appeal of heavily trafficked roadways and public facilities. During the current reporting year, landscaping efforts focused on lighting improvements and vegetation replacement in green space and parking areas surrounding the Barbara S Ponce Public Library. The CRA Sidewalk Program implemented in previous years was not funded in 2015 to 2016, but will resume in 2016-2017 to add new pedestrian access and safety features within the District.
Community Facilities & Events
The Community Redevelopment District boasts numerous facilities for events that bring a steady stream of people to the downtown area and generate interest in the District. England Brothers Park has long served as a popular location for large concerts and community and regional events such as the city’s iconic Country in the Park Festival and Firefighters’ Chili Blaze, while community organizations regularly hold events such as the annual Pinellas Country Fair, Beta Sigma Phi Easter Egg Hunt, Hmong New Year, and Laotian Festival.
Performing Arts Center
Continuing improvements to the adjacent Performing Arts Center have expanded available capacity and opportunities for public events. During 2015 to 2016, the CRA supported additional enhancements to the City’s Performing Arts Center, increasingly a venue for arts and cultural events as well as community gatherings and private rentals. Improvements included upgrades to lighting and sound equipment, replacement of obsolete furnishings and carpet, and complete interior repainting. These enhancements have contributed to the ability of the community’s Performing Arts Center to offer a popular tribute concert series that now routinely boasts sold-out shows, as well as regular performances by the Matinee Opera Players and special events by the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Clubs, and youth sports organizations.
The City’s historic downtown, long the starting point for the popular annual Holiday Parade, increasingly provides opportunities for small business development (see more below). The concentration of public facilities such as Park Station, the City Auditorium, Police Station, Senior Recreation Center, Shuffleboard Courts, and Senior Fitness Center on 58th Street make it a major activity hub for the City, and provide parking for evening and weekend events.
Park Station is particularly important in hosting a wide array of community meetings and events, and provides office, work, meeting, and event space to both the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Pinellas Park Art Society. During 2015 to 2016, the facility hosted a visiting small business assistance program available through Pinellas County, and hosted arts business trainings and grant workshops offered by local arts agency Creative Pinellas. Park Station also became a destination for the monthly Fourth Saturday Art Walk, opening for new evening hours to host artist demonstrations and shows by the Pinellas Art Society.
Small Business Development & the Arts
The Better Block project initiated in 2015 culminated in October with a two-day event that invited the community to envision a new arts district in the historic core of the City at the center of the CRA.
The event, staged within the 5600-5800 Blocks of Park Boulevard, brought residents, businesses, developers, planners, and community groups together design a walkable area filled with arts, retail and entertainment destinations, and to work together to build their vision for a single weekend ‘pop-up’ event. City staff and volunteers worked during the ensuing months to plan storage-container art galleries, a collaborative art exhibit in a storefront shell in the 5600 Block, a hay bale amphitheater and stage with continuous performances, and pedestrian amenities. The event launched permanent changes in the area, now the city’s arts district.
5663 Park Boulevard
Immediately after Better Block, the CRA reprogrammed the Pinellas Park Office Suites at 5663 Park Boulevard, which had operated 2012 to 2015 as a small business incubator providing below-market rate office space to new entrepreneurs for up to three years. The facility was remodeled to serve as affordable artist studios to foster emerging artists and help to anchor the new arts district forming in the area. The Studios at 5663 began leasing in January 2016, in May becoming a focal point for a new Fourth Saturday Art Walk.
The Studios at 5663 joined other arts incubators established in 2013 with Pompei Studios at 5681 Park Boulevard, and in 2015 with Swartz Gallery at 5609 Park. In 2015 to 2016, the CRA renovated an additional property, 5725 Park Boulevard, now leased to Painting with a Twist. These new attractors have greatly increased visits to the district, which benefits from the newly renovated 5600 Block parking completed during the current reporting year.
United Cottages Neighborhood
The United Cottages Neighborhood, in the 5700 Block north of Park Boulevard, is the focus of an ongoing cooperative revitalization effort by United Cottages Corporation (a subdivision of cottages located on 75th Terrace) and the CRA. The area was rezoned in 2011 as a mixed-use district with the hope that businesses might invest in a downtown, “live-work” location. A development agreement allows reduced setback and yard requirements to allow cottages to occupy more square footage on small lots. The Agreement also allows residential units as small as 308 square feet, permits live/work units, and waives parking space requirements for individual units.
2015 to 2016
The CRA continued in 2015 to 2016 to purchase property and remove blighted structures in the neighborhood. In their place, property owners are allowed to construct new cottage-style housing and live-work units. Two model units and public parking constructed by the CRA enhance the growing arts district. In 2015, the CRA partnered with a private developer to construct a modern two-story artist live-work unit at 5705 Park Boulevard adjacent to the Cottages. Recruitment for the new unit and for the existing cottages was linked to the new arts district, bringing The Complete Sweet Shoppe and the Wordier Than Thou event space and bookstore to the area.
Construction of the new artist live-work unit was substantially completed at the end of 2015 to 2016 and the resident artist selected for the facility. This facility, Donnelly COVE, fronts Park Boulevard with a public breezeway connecting the Cottages District with the Park Boulevard commercial corridor, further stimulating the development of innovative mixed use housing and commercial uses in this neighborhood. The COVE gallery brings artists from around the region to show their work, while the neighborhood.